New Zealand sets 90% vaccine target to end lockdowns and reopen

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WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday (Oct 22) that the country will end its strict coronavirus lockdown measures and move to a system to live with the virus only when 90 per cent of the country is fully vaccinated.

All District Health Boards in the country will need to achieve 90 per cent vaccine rates, Ardern said, which would make the South Pacific nation one of the most vaccinated country in the world.

“Ultimately we have balanced the desire to re-open quickly while continuing to keep people safe,” Ardern said at a news conference.

Some 68 per cent of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated so far, while 86 per cent have received at least one dose.

On reaching the 90 per cent fully vaccinated target the country will move to a new Covid-19 Protection Framework that provides a pathway out of lockdown and will enable businesses and events to re-open to vaccinated New Zealanders, Ardern said.

“Fully vaccinated people will be able to reconnect with family and friends, go to bars and restaurants and do the things they love with greater certainty and confidence,” Ardern said.

Auckland will be able to open up sooner, Ardern said, adding the city can move out of lockdown as soon as 90 per cent fully vaccinated is reached in each of the city’s three District Health Boards.

Once the poster child for stamping out Covid-19, New Zealand is struggling to control an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19 despite its largest city Auckland being in a tough lockdown for more than two months.

Ardern has now switched from her tough elimination strategy to a model of learning to live with the virus.

New Zealand reported 102 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a daily record for the second time in three days.

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